May 5, 2014

'You want to look into the batsman's eyes and see he doesn't want to be there'

Ian Bishop compares modern fast bowling to that of his day, and picks the best among Johnson, Steyn and Morkel
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Fast bowling has had some sort of resurgence lately, especially the kind that Mitchell Johnson has brought in. What is your take on what has happened in recent years?
It was refreshing to see Mitchell bowl the way he has done. Coming through the late '80s and the '90s, there were probably more than a handful of guys who would have touched that pace. Waqar [Younis] started at the end of the '80s and early '90s. [Allan] Donald, myself and a few other guys were going on before that. There were probably a few more as well. In the recent previous generation, we had Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and then things sort of flattened out. We have Dale Steyn, but he is a combination of swing and pace rather than all-out pace. So it was nice to see Mitchell give guys some sleepless nights.

He was bowling very fast and there was the threat of physical harm. That makes batsmen uncomfortable, doesn't it?
When we talk of fast bowling in the early '90s, [threat of physical harm] was a big part of it.

Mitchell hits good areas. It's the combination of pace and lengths that he bowls. You are also thinking as a batsman that "Gee, I can get my ribs broken, I can get my arm broken." Sort of like facing [Curtly] Ambrose in his prime and Allan Donald, and guys like that. To me, that is part of the real test of quality batsmanship. When you came up against West Indies in the early '80s, I would imagine that was a huge part of what a batsman felt. So as much as the quality of the skill, the physical threat really separates good batsmen from very good batsmen.

Johnson v England and South Africa, and Morne Morkel v Clarke, in that one session where he was just pounding Clarke. Why did Johnson have so much more success than Morkel?
I remember watching that spell from Morne Morkel live and tweeting immediately that if Michael Clarke got through it he would really value those runs, probably more than most of the other runs he'd got in his career. Because, at that time, I couldn't say if he could get through it, as he'd been hit in almost every place on his body. He did get through it and he did get a hundred and said he much valued those runs. It was probably [to do with a] fear in cricket that he hadn't experienced as often as guys in the past. It was almost a new dimension in some ways for him and it showed how good a player he is. He came through it. He took his hits. I am sure there was a broken bone somewhere, it was reported. And he scored his runs. Those were the sort of instances where you know not only the quality of the player but also the character of the player.

Morne Morkel is probably the second or third of the trio of Mitchell Johnson, [Dale] Steyn and Morkel. I would like to have added Steve Finn in there but he's gone off the boil.

What made Johnson that much more successful than Morkel?
I think it is just the sustenance of Mitchell Johnson's pace. Morkel bowled a nasty spell. But Mitchell was just consistently faster and on that pace for the series, for the year. We first saw him in the IPL, which preceded all of this harassment. I remember Simon Doull saying, "My god, Australia have to be crazy to not have picked this guy for the Ashes."

Something clicked just before the IPL and through the IPL that all of a sudden allowed this guy to bowl easily - and I say easily because he never looked to be putting in any great effort like other bowlers to bowl fast.

What role did Johnson's action - like a left-handed Jeff Thomson - play in him being more successful?
I'm sure it has its advantages. It's not often you see guys with that action and left-handed. In our time there was Wasim Akram, even though he didn't bowl at that pace, but he was quick. But I think if he was right-handed, and bowling as well as he had, he would have had a fair amount of success as well. I looked at Johnson's pitch map - the guy was hitting some really good lengths, and pace and consistency with it. I think if he were a right-hander or a left-hander, he would have had success. But certainly, being left-handed lent an edge to what he did.

Thommo was different. He was javelin-throwing, delayed action, but straight over the top. Mitchell's is a delayed action but more sideways. Should I duck? Is it short? If it is short, should I stand up and play? Whereas at Thommo's extreme pace you knew where it was going to come up at you. Mitchell sort of slides and comes up.

"Speed must be a desire, because you can't teach someone to run like Usain Bolt. You find a Usain Bolt, great, but you can't make someone run like Bolt. You can refine his action and technique after you find him, but the basic, natural element is pace"

What is your take on the overall Jonathan Trott situation? At the Gabba, he fell to Johnson's short-pitched bowling. Since then we have known that he has had other issues, but perhaps the Mitchell Johnson barrage was a catalyst that pushed things over the top for Trott?
I don't have an opinion, because I struggled to come to terms with the fact that a guy who had scored so many Test runs can actually sort of give in to a battle. I struggled to come to terms that Mitchell Johnson would have such an effect on such a good player. I know what Michael Vaughan said. I know what Michael Atherton said. They are coming from two polarised places, different views. The guy says he is ill. I'm taking him at his word. In sport, when you say you are injured, people usually don't believe them. I'd hate to think that he ran from a battle.

Johnson and Morkel actually hurt people, with sustained spells of physically intimidatory bowling. You said in an earlier interview that you didn't believe in causing physical harm to a batsman. Did that take away from your effectiveness to be a quick bowler?
I think I wanted to intimidate. Most fast bowlers want to intimidate. You want batsmen to be scared of you, but you don't want to break someone's arm or finger. That is another level. That wasn't for me. I didn't want to see it. But you wanted the batsman to fend and you wanted to look in his eyes and see that he didn't really want to be out there. That is what we call intimidation. We all wanted to intimidate but not to injure.

Have you had chats with Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts and Colin Croft about this aspect of fast bowling?
Andy Roberts was the first person I got into contact with as a young pacer. He came to Trinidad to coach, but it was basically on the physical demands of fast bowling and the methods and techniques of it. Mikey, same thing - a very decent guy. He talked about being tough when we played in Derbyshire together but never really about intimidation. Crofty was a very hard man, and remains a very tough competitor today. He didn't mind intimidating and, I suppose, if you got in the way and got hurt, Crofty would say it wasn't his fault. We didn't have extensive conversations on intimidation. It was purely about how to get wickets, how to be fit, how to carry ourselves as fast bowlers, but never about hurting people.

Gideon Haigh wrote in an article that he talked to some of the coaches in Australian clinics, where it was all about batsmen. Then Mitchell Johnson comes along and suddenly the coach has a long line of 13-14-year-olds picking up the ball, marking long run-ups, wanting to be fast bowlers. Was it something like that that got you into fast bowling?
Yeah, my formative years in cricket were between 1980 and 1984, my four years of high school. At that time West Indies were the top team in the world under Clive Lloyd. A part of the aura of that team was the batting of Viv Richards, Greenidge and Haynes, but also the fast bowling. I started out as a batsman, because a lot of our cricket is about batting, but then gravitated towards fast bowling out of necessity. We always tried to mimic the West Indies fast bowlers. I don't know why that stood out. Maybe because there were four of them. It was a rare thing. Myself and my group of friends always tried to copy every fast bowler - probably sometimes four in one!

Who was the fastest bowler you ever played with or against?
Measuring the pace is always tough. I thought Waqar at his peak was the fastest that I ever played against. When we went to Pakistan, certainly from my point of view, we were glad he wasn't the type of guy who enjoyed bowling short. He liked bowling at the stumps and very rarely bowled a short ball. But he was unbelievably quick through the air, which was different to some of us in that we pitched it short a lot more. Allan Donald in his prime was a handful as well. Those two guys stand out as the fastest that I played against. At the back end of my career, Shoaib had started his journey in Test cricket. He wasn't at his peak yet.

Why do you think there was a fall in the number of quick bowlers around the world? We see some are operating at 135-139kph with the ability to swing the ball but not at genuine pace.
It is very hard to sustain that sort of pace over a career. Shoaib did well, Brett Lee did well, but they had their injuries too. Unless you are in peak physical condition and are a superb athlete, it is hard to sustain that pace over a period of eight to nine years. You can be quick but can you sustain 90-95mph? I don't think so. There is a lot of cricket played out now too. Look at the Indian fast bowlers. I think some of these guys have been so promising but after two to three years are just medium pace.

Does structured coaching have anything to do with it? Because genuinely quick bowling, as Wasim Akram says, cannot be taught. You have to be born with it.
Some guys can be over-coached, but your overall ability needs to be refined. Some of the most beautiful actions were of fast bowlers. If you look at Brett Lee's action, it is a perfect action. Allan Donald's is smooth, flowing, it is fantastic to look at. Once you find a natural pace, there must be a streamlining of it.

Imran [Khan] was a bit before my time in his prime, but I was watching tapes of Imran when he just started, and it's like he had three different actions: at the beginning of his career, in his prime, and towards the end of his career. He was raw, then he was refined, and then he was economical. I guess it was the same for [Richard] Hadlee, but I wouldn't call him an out-and-out quick. Andy Roberts, for sure.

There must be some element of evolution and coaching in the refinement of a fast bowler, but there must always be first and foremost the desire to bowl as fast as you can. Speed must be a desire, because you can't teach someone to run like Usain Bolt. You find a Usain Bolt, great, but you can't make someone run like Bolt. You can refine his action and technique after you find him, but the basic, natural element is pace.

From the current lot, you mentioned Steyn, to some extent, Mitchell Johnson and Morkel. Let's assume they are all perfectly fit and performing at the peak of their powers. Which one would you pick?
Who would be the best? Steyn would definitely be the most complete, in the sense that he swings the new ball and he reverses the old ball. He has a great feel for bowling. He just knows how to get rid of someone. Johnson has the edge in pace but doesn't have the range of skills Dale Steyn has. That is not picking on Johnson. Everybody can't have the same set of skills. But Steyn has many.

How do you see the future of fast bowling in cricket, especially with the shorter formats dominating the calendar?
It is a challenge. When I saw Pat Cummins in the Champions League, I thought, "My god, another one on the horizon." I don't know what will become of Pat with all the injuries he has had. Mitchell Starc is another one who was sharp but who is constantly faulting, but he's still very young. There are so many different versions of the game. I wonder whether it's too challenging for the guys to sustain that edge and compromise that edge of pace in order to sustain themselves, particularly across the shorter formats and then blend into Test cricket.

The game seems to be constantly moving in favour of batsmen. How do you redress this imbalance between bat and ball?
Pitches, just pitches. It is similar to Mitchell Johnson coming on the scene. Suddenly Johnson arrives and people look as though they have never seen a fast bowler before and they are getting hurt. Similarly, as soon as you see a pitch with a little bit of spice in it, batsmen play as if they have never held a bat in their hands. Any time you see a pitch that has something in it, the game is a totally different game, with a little bit of seam and bit of bounce.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Insightful2013 on May 10, 2014, 3:02 GMT

    D.S. appears currently, along with James Anderson occasionally, as the only current bowlers to compare somewhat with bowlers of the past. Bowlers who thought about how to get you out instead of simply bowling and hoping for a mistake. Past bowlers like Marshall, Waquar, Wasim, Hadlee, Imran even Botham, actually bowled specifically to your weaknesses. They assessed your deficiencies and induced capitulation. Johnson was bowling to batsmen unaccustomed to the velocity and ferocity and succeeded. Didn't take the better ones long to adjust. He does not have the ability of Steyn or Brett Lee, who was quite good. Even his pace doesn't appear to be close to a Holding, Waquar, Marshall, Roberts,Akhtar etc. Their balls appeared quicker and heavier. His hostility is anyone's equal, I think. His problem is that he is insecure and labile. I think he will only be successful sporadically and in conditions suitable to his assets. Not like the other bowlers mentioned who could produce anywhere!

  • NavinDesigns on May 9, 2014, 16:26 GMT

    excellent read. top stuff from Bish as always

  • Bilal_Choudry on May 9, 2014, 12:08 GMT

    I remember that early 90s series when Windies toured Pak .. Bishop was the quickest of them all ... too bad his back didnt allow him to continue

  • on May 8, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    The fastest bowler in late fifties early sixties was West Indian Roy Gilchrist who was a pro in the CLL league in Lancashire. He started his run up at the sight screeen which in those dayys was usually at the edge but on the field. His final leap was high and frightening to watch and even more so if you were at the other end holding a bat!!

  • eggyroe on May 7, 2014, 10:51 GMT

    @FOUR-REAL-QUICKS,a person after my own heart,batsmen should earn their runs the hard way and facing up to the quickest of the quickest is part and parcel of the game.It appears to me that Cricket is being split into 2 separate pieces,Test Match and 1 Day and T20 Internationals.In my opinion Test Match Cricket is the ultimate standard to which players should strive,which means batsmen having a technique to be able to face all types of bowling on all types of surfaces.Over the years there have been many batsmen who where thought of as "Flat Track Bullies",but on a surface which gave the bowlers some assistance these batsmen were shown up as seriously lacking in technique to play Test Match Standard Cricket.In my opinion the 2 Halves of cricket should separate as quickly as possible and Players contracted to play either Test Match or 1 Day Cricket only.

  • Cool_Jeeves on May 7, 2014, 2:32 GMT

    My most frightening bowlers of all time - the ones who I would never like to face, assuming they were at their peak are - Thompson, Patrick Patterson, Shoaib Akhtar, Holding, Bishop, Sylvester Clarke. Other greats like Lillee, Ambrose, Marshall etc. were bowlers who would get your wickets but perhaps without filling you with fear quite to teh same extent.

  • on May 6, 2014, 20:08 GMT

    april 1989 saw ian bishop bowling against india on a dead dog of a pitch at bourda, guyana. ian bishop had the ball climbing at the throat of the batsmen at a frightening speed and i said to myself something is going to happen here......and it happened..... kris srikkant wrist got broken. and another thing happened..... the world got brian lara instead of me.

  • FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on May 6, 2014, 20:02 GMT

    A fine article addressing the most exciting area of cricket. Anybody who prefers that T20 "junk" cricket to a battle out in the middle of a test match is a fool. Nothing beats watching a genuine quick in full flight, testing a talented batsman and pushing him to the limit.

    Regarding the fastest of the fast, Patto (Patrick Patterson) was the quickest ever, nobody has ever bowled as quick as that man. Watching him bowl at his peak was a breathtaking sight - from a distance, of course...

    Currently, Ronsford Beaton from Guyana and the Kiwi Adam Milne are about the fastest of the younger generation coming through. Ray Jordan is another name to look out for in the future - a teenager and already hitting 90mph, bowls pretty straight too.

  • rizwan1981 on May 6, 2014, 19:07 GMT

    Its true that Mitch Johsnon , Morkel and Steyn are a frightening prospect on quick and hard surfaces - But on docile sub continent wickets only Steyn has a decent record - Going back to the 70s and 80s , Marshall and Holding also performed well in Asia - But Dennis LILLEE had an appalling record and averaged over 100 in Pakistan and NEVER PLAYED A TEST IN INDIA

  • Kurapati on May 6, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Terrific interview. I used to be a great follower of Bishop, felt nice reading his opinions on current generation fast bowlers.. Loved it

  • Insightful2013 on May 10, 2014, 3:02 GMT

    D.S. appears currently, along with James Anderson occasionally, as the only current bowlers to compare somewhat with bowlers of the past. Bowlers who thought about how to get you out instead of simply bowling and hoping for a mistake. Past bowlers like Marshall, Waquar, Wasim, Hadlee, Imran even Botham, actually bowled specifically to your weaknesses. They assessed your deficiencies and induced capitulation. Johnson was bowling to batsmen unaccustomed to the velocity and ferocity and succeeded. Didn't take the better ones long to adjust. He does not have the ability of Steyn or Brett Lee, who was quite good. Even his pace doesn't appear to be close to a Holding, Waquar, Marshall, Roberts,Akhtar etc. Their balls appeared quicker and heavier. His hostility is anyone's equal, I think. His problem is that he is insecure and labile. I think he will only be successful sporadically and in conditions suitable to his assets. Not like the other bowlers mentioned who could produce anywhere!

  • NavinDesigns on May 9, 2014, 16:26 GMT

    excellent read. top stuff from Bish as always

  • Bilal_Choudry on May 9, 2014, 12:08 GMT

    I remember that early 90s series when Windies toured Pak .. Bishop was the quickest of them all ... too bad his back didnt allow him to continue

  • on May 8, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    The fastest bowler in late fifties early sixties was West Indian Roy Gilchrist who was a pro in the CLL league in Lancashire. He started his run up at the sight screeen which in those dayys was usually at the edge but on the field. His final leap was high and frightening to watch and even more so if you were at the other end holding a bat!!

  • eggyroe on May 7, 2014, 10:51 GMT

    @FOUR-REAL-QUICKS,a person after my own heart,batsmen should earn their runs the hard way and facing up to the quickest of the quickest is part and parcel of the game.It appears to me that Cricket is being split into 2 separate pieces,Test Match and 1 Day and T20 Internationals.In my opinion Test Match Cricket is the ultimate standard to which players should strive,which means batsmen having a technique to be able to face all types of bowling on all types of surfaces.Over the years there have been many batsmen who where thought of as "Flat Track Bullies",but on a surface which gave the bowlers some assistance these batsmen were shown up as seriously lacking in technique to play Test Match Standard Cricket.In my opinion the 2 Halves of cricket should separate as quickly as possible and Players contracted to play either Test Match or 1 Day Cricket only.

  • Cool_Jeeves on May 7, 2014, 2:32 GMT

    My most frightening bowlers of all time - the ones who I would never like to face, assuming they were at their peak are - Thompson, Patrick Patterson, Shoaib Akhtar, Holding, Bishop, Sylvester Clarke. Other greats like Lillee, Ambrose, Marshall etc. were bowlers who would get your wickets but perhaps without filling you with fear quite to teh same extent.

  • on May 6, 2014, 20:08 GMT

    april 1989 saw ian bishop bowling against india on a dead dog of a pitch at bourda, guyana. ian bishop had the ball climbing at the throat of the batsmen at a frightening speed and i said to myself something is going to happen here......and it happened..... kris srikkant wrist got broken. and another thing happened..... the world got brian lara instead of me.

  • FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on May 6, 2014, 20:02 GMT

    A fine article addressing the most exciting area of cricket. Anybody who prefers that T20 "junk" cricket to a battle out in the middle of a test match is a fool. Nothing beats watching a genuine quick in full flight, testing a talented batsman and pushing him to the limit.

    Regarding the fastest of the fast, Patto (Patrick Patterson) was the quickest ever, nobody has ever bowled as quick as that man. Watching him bowl at his peak was a breathtaking sight - from a distance, of course...

    Currently, Ronsford Beaton from Guyana and the Kiwi Adam Milne are about the fastest of the younger generation coming through. Ray Jordan is another name to look out for in the future - a teenager and already hitting 90mph, bowls pretty straight too.

  • rizwan1981 on May 6, 2014, 19:07 GMT

    Its true that Mitch Johsnon , Morkel and Steyn are a frightening prospect on quick and hard surfaces - But on docile sub continent wickets only Steyn has a decent record - Going back to the 70s and 80s , Marshall and Holding also performed well in Asia - But Dennis LILLEE had an appalling record and averaged over 100 in Pakistan and NEVER PLAYED A TEST IN INDIA

  • Kurapati on May 6, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Terrific interview. I used to be a great follower of Bishop, felt nice reading his opinions on current generation fast bowlers.. Loved it

  • CricketMaan on May 6, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    That was what made Sunil Gavaskar a legend and special. He faced those lightining and cunning fast bolwers in the 70s and 80s who were there to kill you with a cricket ball and boy he counterd them and how well that too without a helmet. He keeps joking that coz he is not tall, he had the advantage as most deliveries were above his shoulder or head to be left alone, but he not only scored well ,but went one to become the first player to get 10k runs in Tests. Compare that to the many mordern batting greats.

  • abiose on May 6, 2014, 13:08 GMT

    I saw Bishop bowl on one of the flattest pitches in the world, Bourda, and it was not a pretty sight - it was frightening. But nevertheless I would rather face Bishop then Marshall, he was faster then he appeared (skiddy)- that's why he injured so many batsmen.

  • Metman on May 6, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    @Beazle,I also find it amusing that you could say these words " I find it amusing reading comments from people who judge the pace of bowlers from what they have read or SEEN on video."..yet you go on to say " I SAW him many times during his peak years (1974-Dec 76) and , to give only one example, against NSW at the Sydney Cricket Ground he was blisteringly fast." ..and "Two years later in the West Indies (after his second shoulder injury) on an evening in Barbados, he bowled the fastest spell that Tony Cozier and Bob Simpson, ever SAW. No one could ever have been faster than Thomson."

  • on May 6, 2014, 11:48 GMT

    Thommo was the fastest and most lethal fast bowler I ever saw. He was in the middle of one of his fastest spells against Pakistan, when the collision with Turner occurred. It didn't look like the Pakistanis wanted to be out there facing him.

    It was his incredible speed, plus his ability to make the ball rear from not much short of a length that set him apart.Holding also rates Thommo as the quickest of them all, and that's something coming from a champion West Indian.

  • TheChap on May 6, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    For what's it worth..my top 5 I have seen...

    1. Pat Patterson when playing for Lancs - biggest delivery stride I've seen. I checked his grass marks at the tea interval, he was like a long jumper! He blew the oppo away (Kent) that day...

    2. Allan Donald at Headingley test back in the 90's - serious hasty gas...

    3. Shoaib Akhtar in an ODI at the Oval a few years plus ago now...Trescothick running the ball down the face of his bat, going for 6 or one bounce 4 with a crack into the advertising boards behind the keeper and slips...

    4.

  • Beazle on May 6, 2014, 8:21 GMT

    I find it amusing reading comments from people who judge the pace of bowlers from what they have read or seen on video. The facts is that anyone who faced Jef Thomson at his fastest (and I emphasise that-at his fastest-) were universal in their opinion that he was the fastest bowler they ever saw. And ALL of the West Indians say that as well. I saw him many times during his peak years (1974-Dec 76) and , to give only one example, against NSW at the Sydney Cricket Ground he was blisteringly fast. At the lunch interval, I walked out to wear the Qld keeper had stood to take Thomson's deliveries and it measured 27 paces from the stumps. Many of those deliveries were reaching the keeper on the rise. Two years later in the West Indies (after his second shoulder injury) on an evening in Barbados, he bowled the fastest spell that Tony Cozier and Bob Simpson, ever saw. No one could ever have been faster than Thomson.

  • JJJake on May 6, 2014, 8:12 GMT

    Langer had great footwork ... And needed to. Back then, The bowling for the Windies had so much vennum in it. Thank god for MJ, putting life back into cricket.

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 6:52 GMT

    To me Michael Holding was in terms of consistent speed through the air the fastest bowler of all time.No paceman combined frightening speed with such a smooth and perfect action like a Roll's Royce car.He was s imply poetry in motion.At his fastest Holding bowled the best ever spell in test cricket at the Oval in 1976 and the best ever over at Barbados in 1980 against Boycott.Holding was like a technician and artist combined into one.On the flattest wicket at the Oval in 1976 he dismissed16 batsmen bowled or lbw.To me he was more lethal than Jeff Thomson.Unlike other great paceman Holding bolwed at his bset when he was at his fastest.

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 6:08 GMT

    The most lethal pace bowlers I have seen in my order of merit are Wasim Akram,Malcolm Marshalll,Dennis Lillee,Andy Roberts,Michael Holding,Glen Mcgrath,Richard Hadlee,Imran Khan, Curtly Ambrose and Dale Steyn.Wasim Akram was the ultimate wizard with his mastery of reverse swing was unique and ability to bowl deliveries no paceman ever could .Malcolm Marshal's skidding bouncers and ability to swing the ball both ways with the same action as well as at different speeds was also genius.Dennis Lillee and Andy Roberts combined every component of a perfect fast bowler be it pace to movement or control.For consistency nad control Hadlee and Mcgrath were simply metronomes.On a bad wicket in a 4th innings Curtly Ambrose was the ultimate trumpcard while Imran Khan would win many a game with his ability to combine great pace with lethal inswing.Significantly Shoaib Akkhtar,Alan Donald,Waqar Younus or Brett Lee do not make the list.

  • smalishah84 on May 6, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    Wonderful interview. Was so much fun to read.

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 5:35 GMT

    What makes Mitchel Johnson so daunting is not just the pace he conjures up but his variations of length.I would still compare Dale Steyn in terms of speed on par with Jeff Thomson,Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar who resembles lightning and thunder in full flow.Consistently I still rate Steyn marginally ahead of Johnson with his phenomenal strike rate.It is of great credit to such paceman who can perform so remarkably well in an era where pitches have slowed down and rules are loaded in favour of the batsman.

    What is significant is that the likes of Dennis Lillee,Malcolm Marshall and Wasim Akram were more deadly with a marginally reduced speed combined with greater development of variations of swing and slower deliveries.Lillee's mastery of the leg-cutter,Marshall's skidding bouncer and Wasim's reverse swinging a ball both ways were often unplayable.

    The control and consistency of Richard Hadlee and Glen Mcgrath were more lethal than the pace of Shoaib Akhtar.

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 4:23 GMT

    The most significant aspect of facing genuine pace bowling is that it is not the sheer pace but the combination of speed with control, swing and variations.Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding were the fastest bowlers of their eras in terms of sheer speed but yet it was a more daunting task for great batsmen to face Dennis Lillee or Andy Roberts.Lillee and Roberts superbly combined frightening speed with variations of swing and slower deliveries.Robert's bouncer's at different speeds were unreadable.In the 1990's although Waqar Younus and Alan Donald were quicker it was Wasim Akram's mastery of reverse swing and variations that were the biggest menace for batsmen and later Glen Mcgrath's phenomenal control.

    In recent months more than speed it is the subtleties and variations of Johnston's bowling that made him such a menace.

  • entryholedia on May 6, 2014, 3:54 GMT

    Bish has provided an article which I have always been crazy about which intimidating fast bowling the likes of which I have seen during that late seventies & early eighties era when " Prehistoric Giants of Fast Men " dominated this earth from the famous Quartet ( they had some 10 bowlers to choose from, bish being one!!!!) from the Windies , Australia-the Lillee, Thomson et al , Pakistan-Imran , Waqar et al , to much lesser extent England with Snow, Willis !! Sadly the smaller descendants of those Prehistoric Giants of Fast Men are being found sparsely with one or two just about managing to be in that same league , in this era of mundane quality bowling

  • gibbons on May 6, 2014, 0:57 GMT

    @Omer Ayaz - I remember watching Waqar in 89-90 on the Australian tour, bowline with Imran and Wasim Akram. I remember him getting a major talk-up from Richie Benaud - he was just a kid, and one of those players that Benaud would just say 'watch this one, he'll be something.'

    I remember a few of those... there was a batsman the next season, Sachin something or other...

  • gibbons on May 6, 2014, 0:53 GMT

    "But you wanted the batsman to fend and you wanted to look in his eyes and see that he didn't really want to be out there."

    I'm assuming all the opponents of David Warner will jump in at this point...

  • JJJake on May 5, 2014, 22:28 GMT

    Great article . Nothing better in cricket than the battle between a great batsman and a great fast bowler. It always makes the crowd come alive.

  • MasterBlaster100 on May 5, 2014, 21:28 GMT

    Youtube Justin Langer's first ball in Test cricket..

  • MasterBlaster100 on May 5, 2014, 21:23 GMT

    The two quickest bowlers I have watched in the last 30 years were Waqar Younis and Ian Bishop. Both broke down from the strain within a couple of years and were never the same pace again. But they were quick, trust me!

  • on May 5, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    Good to see that Bish talked about young and very quick Waqar, those who haven't seen him bowl in his prime may think that Waqar was fast medium but boy before he broke his back in 92, he was frightening quick!

  • on May 5, 2014, 16:46 GMT

    @waspsting, You're welcome. I kinda figured that out myself, thanks anyway!

    The reason I posted this question was because there were many anomalies in that explanation. Like for instance, I saw Shammi getting much more swing with new ball than Bhuvaneshwar in a Mumbai green track against WI. I saw Ishant(who bowls with a scrambled seam) getting more movement than Zaheer and Shammii on many occassions in the recent tour of SA and NZ.

    I have also not seen any commentator or expert panel discussing about Shammi's lack of swing in the recent overseas tours, thats why I wanted to ask it here.

    @India_boy, Sreesanth was one of the most gifted fast bowlers to emerge out of India. He had a god-like seam position and wonderful wrists. The reason he didn't have much success was because of his immaturity and inability to control his temper, not due to lack of ability.

  • eggyroe on May 5, 2014, 16:43 GMT

    An excellent article,and about time the fast bowlers of this world gave it big time to batsmen.As an Englishman,yes it was not very pleasant watching Mitchell Johnson dishing it out to England,but batsmen have had an easy ride for the last 15 years.When you go back through the history of the game there are numerous battles between Batsmen and Fast Bowlers.Think Harold Larwood and The Don,Brian Close and the 1976 West Indian Bowlers,Derek Randell and Dennis Lillee,Mike Atherton and Alan Donald and no doubt many more.The fundamental principle of a game of Cricket is that it is an equal contest between bat and ball and this means the Batsmen do not have it all their own way and if they have to wear a few from the bowlers so be it.

  • whoster on May 5, 2014, 12:36 GMT

    Excellent article. Ian Bishop was frighteningly quick in his time, and he's as qualified as anyone to discuss how batsmen handle genuine pace. As an Englishman, it was horrifying to watch Mitchell Johnson pull England apart, but, for the game of Test cricket as a whole, it needs fast and hostile bowlers to make batsmen truly earn their runs. For various reasons, life has been too easy for batsmen in recent years, and there needs to be more equality between bat and ball.

    One of the great thrills of Test cricket is seeing a confrontation between hostile fast bowlers and batsmen fearing for their physical safety. Nobody should want to see a batsman get hurt, and it's nice to hear Bishop state that in this interview, but it's only when a batsman receives a pace barrage and comes through it that they can they say they've earned their stripes.

    Ian Bishop is also an excellent commentator who actually talks about the game rather than themselves - something others can learn from.

  • on May 5, 2014, 11:03 GMT

    Good article highlighting the dearth of fast bowlers.Had it not been for the Ashes and the Subsequent tour to Saf, Johnson would not have resurrected, Steyn would have reigned supreme with his friendly foe Morkel to add company. The sudden rise of Johnson has delighted old timers who consider Fast Bowling as the most important cog of Test Cricket.They say Batsmen can be made, Spinners can be moulded, but fast bowlers and good fielders are born.Certainly Steyn, Lillie, Thommo and the West Indian Quartet were in that league. Mitch only showed traces of it in his career.It's highly difficult to sustain it over a prolonged career and in that regard, Steyn Stands out.If there's a pitch to assist him, you can see poetry in motion with venomous pace.The resurgence of Johnson has put Steyn under pressure.Steyn will fight back.Give him 5 matches, give him green decks and then just give him the duke. Morkel's spell to Clarke is one of the most hostile spells that troubled even the mighty.

  • Jaffa79 on May 5, 2014, 9:27 GMT

    It is about pace but also how it is used. How many tearaway quicks have there been that go around the park? People like Marshall, Imran, Ambrose, Wasim and all the rest were all supremely accurate and did lots with it too.

  • bluefunk on May 5, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    Bish speaks for a lot of quicks . One of the factors behind the superb success of Pakistani greats like Wasim and Waqar was that they bowled a lot of yorkers. Not only does this give the ball more time to swing (since the reverse deviation kicks in very late in the delivery's trajectory, in the last yards before the ball lands), it also effectively takes the pitch out of the equation. Necessity must be acknowledged as the primary motivation behind the invention of this tactic; pitches in the subcontinent with a lively tinge of green are few and far between. More pitches with a bit of spice would definitely be very welcome.

    Also, the backfoot defence played with a high elbow and both feet off the ground is one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots in cricket. Together with the hook, and lately the upper cut over the slips for six (both strokes that have an air of dash and pirate bravado about them), all are parts of a batsman's armoury we see only on a pitch with some bounce in it.

  • Cool_Jeeves on May 5, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    What a lovely piece. Like water to a man with a parched throat in a desert. Bring them on - more articles about fast bowling. It is tiring to read about batting all the while. The great tragedy of cricket is that the the great West Indies pacemen are probably gone forever. Whatever one says they were superior as a pack to any other attack. What we witness these days is a couple of notches below that attack's peak. Even that is dwindling, thanks to a proliferation of formats and increasing demands on fast bowlers, who succumb faster than batsmen to the workload. Cricket is gradually gravitating to a Glenn Maxwell vs. Sunil Narine type of cricket, with reverse-sweepers playing elbow spinners.

  • waspsting on May 5, 2014, 5:44 GMT

    @Facebook User - thanks for the feedback.

    in response to your question - you've answered it yourself. The direction the seam is pointing guides swing. Bowlers like Shammi who hold the seam dead straight are going for a different effect - movement of the wicket or "seaming".

    "Cutting" movement also occurs as the ball pitches but is achieved by 'turning' the ball on delivery, like a spinner does.

    "Seaming" movement occurs as the ball pitches due to the ball landing on the seam. Its the most unpredictable movement of all - even the bowler often doesn't know if or in what direction the ball will go

    The finer distinctions... the bowlers themselves could talk about (though possibly not explain). Chaminda Vaas swung the ball well, but his seam was often scrambled and some bowlers who seam the ball consistently do so in a particular direction (Ambrose comes to mind)

  • xtrafalgarx on May 5, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    @Landl47: I reckon he is fit enough to play for another 4 years. If he does, he would have played close to, if not more than 100 tests. Form will be key, but i think he has enough time to be a great. He is already in the top 10 wicket takers for Australia, the highest for a left arm quick too, i reckon he can finish as the second highest wicket taker for an Australian quick behind Mcgrath,

  • India_boy on May 5, 2014, 5:30 GMT

    @facebook user: That maybe because Shami is a reverse swinging opponent whereas Philander and Sreesanth (who?) bowl mostly away swinging deliveries as their stock delivery. This is why bowlers like Bhubaneswar are much effective with the new ball whereas Shami, a reverse swinging bowler is effective with the old ball.

  • DarthKetan on May 5, 2014, 4:59 GMT

    For true fans, there is no better sight than a great fast bowler pushing a great batsman to the extreme...those are the spells that make cricket..think Steyn vs Tendulkar Cape Town...That's the reason we ought to produce more helpful tracks...it's the bowlers that make test cricket....here's hoping we see more of them across the countries!!!

  • on May 5, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    @waspsting, I believe in one of his previous interviews, he mentioned Sachin as the best player of fast bowling or something like that.

    BTW, nice interview! Would like to see his comments on technical stuff. Like the seam position, wrist position etc. Why someone like Shammi who bowls with perfect straight seam doesn't get as much swing as someone like Philander or Sreesanth(bowling with seam pointed to slips)?

  • India_boy on May 5, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    Great stuff this. Bishy has given an honest opinion from a bowler's point of view. A little off topic, but people should consider how IPL has benefited many international players and teams - Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson being the prime examples. West Indies resurgence and winning the T20 WC can also be attributed to it, I would like to mention SL as well, but they are too arrogant to admit.

  • landl47 on May 5, 2014, 4:03 GMT

    If Johnson had bowled as he has done for the last few months throughout the rest of his career, he would be considered one of the great fast bowlers of all time. Since it only fell into place for him at age 32, he's going to be an anomaly- a great fast bowler, but only for a very short time.

    Dennis Lillee was the finest fast bowler I've ever seen; as fast as anyone in his early stages and then both fast and accurate with a really lethal outswinger as he matured. Thomson was consistently the fastest I've seen, but didn't have Lillee's skills. All the great West Indians were terrific bowlers and Wasim was the best left-handed quick. Johnson in the last two series has been as good as anyone.

    Steyn is a wonderful bowler and can be really quick when he thinks it will help. Most of the time, though, he bowls 140-142kph and moves the ball around. Like Hadlee, he finds control and movement gets more wickets than flinging it down. Compare his record with Morkel's and you'll see he's right.

  • waspsting on May 5, 2014, 3:13 GMT

    Would have liked to have seen a few questions on Bish's take on what it takes to be a good player of fast bowling - and his thoughts on who are the standouts at that now and of the guys he bowled to, too.

    More interesting than who Ian Bishop the batsman thought was the fastest bowler he faced!

    Not too sure about this comment that Wasim Akram "didn't bowl at that pace". Wasim had phases to his career and from memory, I can't recall if he encountered Bishop during his raw pace phase but my recollection is that as a youngster, he was as quick as they came. And as intimidating, too - a really nasty bouncer that came right up at the ribs.

    Imran (who admittedly might be a touch biased) thought Wasim was the fastest bowler on show when Pak toured WI in 88/89.

    Still, I think Waqar and Donald were faster - especially Waqar.

  • striker_force on May 5, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    I like this guy's opinions. Hope the fast bowling era comes back and we see some competition.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • striker_force on May 5, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    I like this guy's opinions. Hope the fast bowling era comes back and we see some competition.

  • waspsting on May 5, 2014, 3:13 GMT

    Would have liked to have seen a few questions on Bish's take on what it takes to be a good player of fast bowling - and his thoughts on who are the standouts at that now and of the guys he bowled to, too.

    More interesting than who Ian Bishop the batsman thought was the fastest bowler he faced!

    Not too sure about this comment that Wasim Akram "didn't bowl at that pace". Wasim had phases to his career and from memory, I can't recall if he encountered Bishop during his raw pace phase but my recollection is that as a youngster, he was as quick as they came. And as intimidating, too - a really nasty bouncer that came right up at the ribs.

    Imran (who admittedly might be a touch biased) thought Wasim was the fastest bowler on show when Pak toured WI in 88/89.

    Still, I think Waqar and Donald were faster - especially Waqar.

  • landl47 on May 5, 2014, 4:03 GMT

    If Johnson had bowled as he has done for the last few months throughout the rest of his career, he would be considered one of the great fast bowlers of all time. Since it only fell into place for him at age 32, he's going to be an anomaly- a great fast bowler, but only for a very short time.

    Dennis Lillee was the finest fast bowler I've ever seen; as fast as anyone in his early stages and then both fast and accurate with a really lethal outswinger as he matured. Thomson was consistently the fastest I've seen, but didn't have Lillee's skills. All the great West Indians were terrific bowlers and Wasim was the best left-handed quick. Johnson in the last two series has been as good as anyone.

    Steyn is a wonderful bowler and can be really quick when he thinks it will help. Most of the time, though, he bowls 140-142kph and moves the ball around. Like Hadlee, he finds control and movement gets more wickets than flinging it down. Compare his record with Morkel's and you'll see he's right.

  • India_boy on May 5, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    Great stuff this. Bishy has given an honest opinion from a bowler's point of view. A little off topic, but people should consider how IPL has benefited many international players and teams - Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson being the prime examples. West Indies resurgence and winning the T20 WC can also be attributed to it, I would like to mention SL as well, but they are too arrogant to admit.

  • on May 5, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    @waspsting, I believe in one of his previous interviews, he mentioned Sachin as the best player of fast bowling or something like that.

    BTW, nice interview! Would like to see his comments on technical stuff. Like the seam position, wrist position etc. Why someone like Shammi who bowls with perfect straight seam doesn't get as much swing as someone like Philander or Sreesanth(bowling with seam pointed to slips)?

  • DarthKetan on May 5, 2014, 4:59 GMT

    For true fans, there is no better sight than a great fast bowler pushing a great batsman to the extreme...those are the spells that make cricket..think Steyn vs Tendulkar Cape Town...That's the reason we ought to produce more helpful tracks...it's the bowlers that make test cricket....here's hoping we see more of them across the countries!!!

  • India_boy on May 5, 2014, 5:30 GMT

    @facebook user: That maybe because Shami is a reverse swinging opponent whereas Philander and Sreesanth (who?) bowl mostly away swinging deliveries as their stock delivery. This is why bowlers like Bhubaneswar are much effective with the new ball whereas Shami, a reverse swinging bowler is effective with the old ball.

  • xtrafalgarx on May 5, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    @Landl47: I reckon he is fit enough to play for another 4 years. If he does, he would have played close to, if not more than 100 tests. Form will be key, but i think he has enough time to be a great. He is already in the top 10 wicket takers for Australia, the highest for a left arm quick too, i reckon he can finish as the second highest wicket taker for an Australian quick behind Mcgrath,

  • waspsting on May 5, 2014, 5:44 GMT

    @Facebook User - thanks for the feedback.

    in response to your question - you've answered it yourself. The direction the seam is pointing guides swing. Bowlers like Shammi who hold the seam dead straight are going for a different effect - movement of the wicket or "seaming".

    "Cutting" movement also occurs as the ball pitches but is achieved by 'turning' the ball on delivery, like a spinner does.

    "Seaming" movement occurs as the ball pitches due to the ball landing on the seam. Its the most unpredictable movement of all - even the bowler often doesn't know if or in what direction the ball will go

    The finer distinctions... the bowlers themselves could talk about (though possibly not explain). Chaminda Vaas swung the ball well, but his seam was often scrambled and some bowlers who seam the ball consistently do so in a particular direction (Ambrose comes to mind)

  • Cool_Jeeves on May 5, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    What a lovely piece. Like water to a man with a parched throat in a desert. Bring them on - more articles about fast bowling. It is tiring to read about batting all the while. The great tragedy of cricket is that the the great West Indies pacemen are probably gone forever. Whatever one says they were superior as a pack to any other attack. What we witness these days is a couple of notches below that attack's peak. Even that is dwindling, thanks to a proliferation of formats and increasing demands on fast bowlers, who succumb faster than batsmen to the workload. Cricket is gradually gravitating to a Glenn Maxwell vs. Sunil Narine type of cricket, with reverse-sweepers playing elbow spinners.